The preliminaries are over for the third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes after using the arm and legs of quarterback Braxton Miller to beat the Indiana Hoosiers 42-14 in snowy Ohio Stadium on Saturday.
Miller passed for two touchdowns and had two more on acrobatic runs and Carlos Hyde, like Miller, had two first-half rushing touchdowns as the Buckeyes (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten) took a 28-0 lead and set a school record with their 23rd straight win, a streak that began with Urban Meyer's first game as coach in 2012.
"I know one thing -- that this team is playing at a very, very high level," Meyer said. "They're focused each week, and that's our job to maintain focus again this week."
The previous mark was snapped in the final game of the 1969 season at Michigan under first-year Wolverines coach Bo Schembechler, who beat his mentor Woody Hayes, 24-12. The Buckeyes play Nov. 30 at Michigan in the rivalry dubbed The Game.
Then the Buckeyes, who won the Leaders Division for the second straight season by beating the Hoosiers, will play in the Big Ten championship game for the first time Dec. 7 in Indianapolis against Legends Division winner Michigan State. OSU was ineligible for the postseason in 2012 because of NCAA sanctions.
Ohio State remains in the hunt for a national title.
"There's no chance of us overlooking a team from here on out," Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Bennett said. "You've got that Team Up North (Michigan), the Big Ten championship and whatever comes after that.
"Every week from here on out is a bowl week."
The Hoosiers hoped to give the Buckeyes a tough game like last season when they lost by three in Bloomington but it had two drives into deep into OSU territory end with quarterback sacks, another on an incomplete pass in the end zone from the 2 and had two missed field goals off the uprights from the usually reliable Mitch Ewald, who had made his previous eight.
The Hoosiers had more first downs (24 to 22) and only 29 fewer total yards (471 to 442) but didn't score until 5:59 left in the game when quarterback Tre Roberson passed 4 yards to wide receiver Shane Wynn. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld had a 25-yard touchdown pass to running back D'Angelo Roberts with two minutes left to complete the Indiana scoring.
"The scoreboard is what counts -- that is the real difference," Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said. "It was based on Ohio State's ability to run the ball and our inability to run the ball."
Miller was 11 of 17 for 160 yards and an interception and added 144 rushing yards on 13 carries while Hyde had 114 yards on 17 attempts among the Buckeyes' 311 yards rushing. Indiana had 122 yards on the ground.
Indiana did not score the first eight times it got across midfield.
"A big thing for this team is finishing" Indiana safety Greg Heban said. "I think we did a good job finishing and not giving up big plays at the end of the game. When you are up against a team like Ohio State you have to have all three phases going -- offense, defense and special teams."
But the Hoosiers couldn't stop Miller.
On both of Miller's running scores he somersaulted into the end zone. The first gave Ohio State a 14-0 lead at 8:11 of the first quarter. Miller broke outside and raced toward the right pylon with two Indiana players in pursuit and he dove from the 2 to complete a five-play, 56-yard drive.
"Just having a little bit of fun," Miller said. "All year, actually with my knee brace and injury going on today, if you notice, I didn't have my knee brace on. I wanted to have a little bit of fun with it."
Miller made it 21-0 just past the midpoint of the second quarter from the 5. Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton took the snap and pitched the ball to Miller on a reverse.
As Miller ran right he vaulted Tim Bennett at the 1 but was hit by Forisse Hardin and landed on his head in the end zone. The ball popped loose but Miller was already across the goal line.
Hyde's 7-yard run in midway through the second quarter allowed him to become the first running back of a Meyer-coached team (13 seasons) to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. Hyde entered with 949 yards despite being suspended by the school for the first three games due to an off-field incident during the summer.
"It starts with those up front," Hyde said. "I give credit to those guys and my tight ends and receivers because they do a great job of blocking."
NOTES: Ohio State has a 69-12-5 record in the series, winning 18 straight vs. the Hoosiers. Indiana has not won since a 41-7 victory in Bloomington on Oct. 8, 1988. The last Hoosiers' win in Columbus was 31-10 in 1987. ... Indiana had scored 28 or more in 10 straight games this season, a school record, until losing 51-3 at Wisconsin on Nov. 16. ... Ohio State has outscored opponents 206-38 in the first quarter.